In February 2022, the EU Commission presented its proposal for a directive on corporate due diligence. The new EU law is intended to oblige companies to take responsibility with regard to social and environmental impacts in their supply chain. The Council of the EU agreed on a general approach on 1 December 2022 and votes in the EU Parliament are to be finalised before the summer recess. AK EUROPA, together with the EU offices of ÖGB and DGB, has taken this decisive phase of the negotiations as an opportunity to once again point out the necessary requirements for a strong EU supply chain law at an event in Brussels.
The panel included Evelyn Regner, Vice-President of the EU Parliament, Isabelle Schömann, Confederal Secretary at ETUC, Paul de Clerck, Team Leader at Friends of the Earth Europe and Albert Kruft, Consultant of the Works Council of Solvay.
MEP Evelyn Regner emphasised that the EU Parliament wants to achieve more in terms of the protection of human rights and the environment than is provided for in the Commission proposal. Above all, the too narrow scope should be expanded. Here, it is the task of the EU Parliament to find a clear regulation so that the decision is not transferred to the Commission, which would then determine the scope of application with the help of delegated acts. The Employment Committee of the EU Parliament was currently also working on including works councils and trade unions in the law. Overall, Regner said that the EU Supply Chain Act could become global standard and a milestone.
Isabelle Schömann (ETUC) saw the EU Supply Chain Act as a great opportunity that should not be missed. The involvement of works councils and trade unions and the anchoring of their role in the EU Supply Chain Act is of great importance. In order to achieve a strong law, it is essential to shift the burden of proof in favour of the victims of human rights violations. Legal obligations must also be accompanied by appropriate controls and sanctions. In the spirit of the ongoing NGO trade union campaign “Justice is Everybody’s Business”, Schömann demanded that economic activity should only take place in compliance with human rights.
Paul de Clerck (FoEE) saw it as an important step that after many years of inactivity, a legislative proposal has finally been presented by the Commission and the debate is being conducted at European level. However, he too pointed to considerable gaps in the legislative proposal and hoped for subsequent tightening, especially by the EU Parliament. De Clerck also called for as many companies as possible to be covered by the scope of the law. However, it would be better to enact a powerful law for slightly fewer companies and then later expand the number of companies covered, rather than weaken the law overall. It is imperative that the victims have the opportunity to enforce their rights in court. How difficult this is at present is shown, for example by the lawsuit filed by victims of Shell in the Niger Delta case, where the court proceedings took 13 years.
Albert Kruft, Consultant of the Works Council of Solvay, described his many years of experience in anchoring sustainability standards and human rights in a large chemical company. According to Kruft, Solvay's first step was to introduce a framework agreement in 2013, which set standards in the area of human rights and sustainability and which apply throughout the entire group. Kruft considers controls and the involvement of trade unions to be essential and calls implementation guidelines for companies following the adoption of the EU Supply Chain Act.